Go to any major hotel website or online travel agency with the goal of booking multiple rooms for a large family or group of friends traveling together, and you’ll likely come across a number of challenges. For starters, most hotel booking platforms limit the number of guests in a single booking to four –– six or eight, if you’re lucky. Second, there’s no easy way to book multiple rooms or connecting rooms together online. Third, it’s often difficult to figure out the room setup and size. These obstacles are driving more group travelers to turn to Airbnb and other vacation rental services to accommodate their specific needs.
Suiteness, a suite-focused online booking platform offering single and multi-bedroom hotel suites, sees these challenges as a missed opportunity for hotels and consumers alike. The company realizes that suites are among hotels’ highest revenue generating assets, yet they’re underutilized as inventory. Too often suites are seen by the front desk as loyalty benefits or appeasements to unhappy guests, which means they’re often left unoccupied. Despite the lack of occupancy, they’re hidden from customers in most online booking processes. Suiteness asks hotel guests the questions that aren’t typically asked: how many people are staying, and how many bedrooms do you need? This approach helps hotels to raise occupancy rates for this frequently unused inventory, re-engaging potential vacation rental customers and boosting revenue in the process.
SkiftX spoke with Robbie Bhathal, co-founder and CEO of Suiteness, about the opportunities hotel suites present to both hotels and consumers, why hotel suites have been underutilized as inventory, and why this needs to change, especially in today’s hospitality landscape.
SkiftX: Can you tell us about what Suiteness offers hotels?
Robbie Bhathal: We believe that hotel suites are an underutilized asset. We give hotels the ability to increase demand and overall bookings for their suites. Making hotel suite distribution more flexible also gives hotels the opportunity to bring back those customers who have shifted away from traditional hotel bookings toward more flexible options offered by Airbnb and other vacation rental services.
SkiftX: How does this benefit the consumer?
Bhathal: Consumers want bedrooms and they want space –– they want the “entire place.” Airbnb is growing so quickly because they offer what customers want. They make it especially easy for friends and families traveling together. Well over half of their inventory is “entire place,” according to AirDNA, a company that tracks data related to Airbnb, and many of those have multiple bedrooms. We aim to give travelers what they’re looking for –– multiple people in multiple bedrooms –– combined with the amenities, convenience, and security of a hotel. We have a concierge team of trip planners who are available 24/7 to help customers choose the right suite and plan things like transportation and entertainment. These are real humans, not bots. We’re giving them the space they want, with an added peace of mind.
SkiftX: Why has the demand for hotel suites typically been so low?
Bhathal: Suites have been hidden from everyday consumers. Unlike air travel, where the consumer has to walk past all of the other classes on the way to their seat, hotel guests don’t know what all of the options are. Savvy and high-end travelers know they can pick up the phone and book a suite, but this no longer makes sense in today’s world where everything is now booked online.
SkiftX: How has this affected the pricing of hotel suites?
Bhathal: Such limited inventory and lack of visibility into demand have led hotel suites to be priced incorrectly, adding to the problem. Suites are typically less than one-third of a hotel’s inventory, which leads to a fear of selling out. This is made worse because there isn’t a way for hotels to know what the true demand is for these rooms, since no dynamic pricing tool has aggregate demand data. This leads to two-bedroom suites often being priced four times higher than regular rooms.
We’re aiming to fix this problem with the connected suites we offer. They’re priced at about 10 percent more than booking two regular hotel rooms and half that of a two bedroom suite. Our research shows they’re at a similar price point as vacation rentals.
SkiftX: Can you tell us more about how Airbnb and other vacation rental companies come into play here?
Bhathal: Vacation rentals aren’t going away –– even hotels are buying vacation rental properties. But our goal is to give travelers another option. Fortunately, we’re at a moment where hotels have the opportunity to remind customers why they’re great. When it comes to lodging, people want to stay together in larger spaces, but they still want certain amenities. Airbnb has done an amazing job building brand loyalty, but many people who have used it have a horror story –– like when I stayed at a home in Montana with an overflowing toilet, or when our co-founder and chief product officer, Kyle Killion, stayed at a home in Portland on a 100° F day with no air conditioning. Issues such as these are of course getting better as the company matures, but there are many people out there who still feel more comfortable at a hotel.
Major hotel groups are starting to understand where they fit in within this larger picture. They understand their own sites and other OTAs are missing out on the opportunity to win over, or bring back, these customers. But they’re also realizing their strengths –– the suites they offer is one of them.
SkiftX: What audience do you expect this to appeal to?
Bhathal: Our target is consumers between 25 and 44 who are traveling together with friends or family, potentially to celebrate a milestone or just hoping to get away. Our top booking occasions are bachelor and bachelorette parties, family trips, and birthday parties, and we’re tapping into sports and music events as well. Our priority customer is what we call “the travel hero” –– the person among their friend group who is that rare combination of well-traveled and a little OCD –– those who are sought after for travel advice and typically in charge of planning their friend and family trips.
SkiftX: What about specific markets?
Bhathal: Our markets are driven by what our customers are looking for. Our two biggest booking markets are Las Vegas and New York, and California is our largest feeder market where people are booking from. We’re currently fully launched in 12 markets, including Chicago, Hawaii, Las Vegas, London, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Orlando, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. We’ll soon be launching in cities such as Dallas, Denver, Nashville, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Seattle. Eventually, we’ll be everywhere our customers want us to be.